Techno-utopianism is popular precisely because it doesn’t challenge the status quo, and lets polluters off the hook
In seeking to prevent environmental breakdown, what counts above all is not the new things we do, but the old things we stop doing. Renewable power, for instance, is useful in preventing climate chaos only to the extent that it displaces fossil fuels. Unfortunately, new technologies do not always lead automatically to the destruction of old ones.
In the UK, for example, building new offshore wind power has been cheaper than building new gas plants since 2017. But the wholesale disinvestment from fossil fuels you might have expected is yet to happen. Since the UN climate summit last November, the government has commissioned one new oil and gas field, and reportedly plans to license six more. It has overridden the Welsh government to insist on the extension of the Aberpergwm coalmine. Similar permissions have been granted in most rich nations, even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist